Announcing that today is a day for all New Yorkers to smile, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held a press conference this afternoon highlighting significant improvements school test scores. The strongest gains came from chartered schools, and Mr. Bloomberg vowed to continue educational policies to expand their presence in the city.
“I’m happy to report that this year’s results are very positive, and they are not only a celebration for our students, but also the parents and educators that worked day in and day out to bring out the best in them,” he proclaimed.
“The fact is that this year there has been an increase in every grade and for every single group of students, especially in our chartered schools but also in our non-chartered, public schools,” he continued. “I think we can do better and I will continue to do everything that we can to ensure every single New York City student graduates for college and the working world. But we can be very encouraged, I think, by the story being told today.”
Mr. Bloomberg proceeded to present a number of charts showing that in almost every ethnicity and grade, the city’s middle schools showed increasing performance on the state’s performance tests last spring. The only group showing a decline, the mayor said, was among English learners, but he argued that even those students are doing better because fewer students are being classified as being remedial in English.
However, he repeatedly stressed that the scores are only a way of measuring progress, and the real value from an educational system is whether students are globally competitive in the end.
“We are the poster child for improving, but the skills you need to do jobs in society keep going up,” he explained. “We also have the problem that we’re competing more and more in an international world.”
One of the most controversial aspects of his administration’s education policy, of course, is his strong support for charter schools, and Mr. Bloomberg said that the growing demand for them is evidence enough of their success, not to mention the state scores released today.
“The other schools are doing better as well, I don’t know if it’s because of competition, common sense says that it should be because of competition,” Mr. Bloomberg responded when a reporter asked if the improved results came from increased competition between schools. “You can find people who have views on charter schools, but I will allege that the only ones whose views we should listen to are the parents, because they are the ones where it is a life-changing decision.”
“The parents vote with their feet with the charter schools,” he added. “I don’t know about the rest of the country but here there’s just no question about it.”
Not everyone was as thrilled as Mr. Bloomberg with the newly released scores, however. The Alliance for Quality Education, a public school advocacy organization, sent out a statement criticizing the numbers.
“Students with disabilities, English language learners, and students of color continue to feel the impact of Albany’s recent painful budget cuts to their schools,” the group’s spokesperson, Nikki Jones, declared. “Even amidst slight progress, the achievement gap between these student populations and the state average is staggering.”